Voigtlander 10.5mm review

I've never liked wide angle lenses. That’s not strictly true but given the choice, unless critical to narrative or restricted for space, I've always opted to go for normal or telephoto lenses.

Recently however I've found myself reaching more often for the wide angle, which has revealed a hole in my prime lens set up, that being the 'super wide'. What constitutes a super wide is open to debate, but most would concede anything below a 24mm is in the territory.

One of the big issues with the M43 system has been a real lack of anything wider than 24mm. Although adaptors allow the use of other lens mounts, this has always meant a significant crop, so to shoot anything under 24mm you'd be forking out stupid amount of money on 14mm and getting a 22mm equivalent coverage.

Step in Voigtlander with the 10.5mm nokton.

Firstly, this is a very refreshing lens. One of the big issues for me with native lenses on the GH4 has been plastic build quality and fly by wire focusing. The voigtlander address both these issues with all metal construction and fully manual focus.  The build quality is simply sublime.  

The focusing itself is very smooth and the throw is long, allowing more precise and fluid pulls from foreground to background subjects. Voigtlander have also added the ability to de-click the aperture ring with a clutch like mechanism. It's a nice touch, and shows they're taking the concerns of the video community seriously, however It's a feature I won't use, as I prefer variable ND, but it's a good feature none the less.

 The original Brighton Wide Boy...

The headline grabbing feature of this lens is the 0.95 aperture which is around F1.4 equivalent on the 35mm full frame sensor. I must admit I'm increasingly sceptical of shooting most lenses wide open due to softness, but unlike the competition this lens is useable at f0.95. More than usable, it's delightful wide open.

There is of course some softness below f2.2 in the corners but the centre remains impressively sharp, far more than any full frame equivalent lens. Shooting macro wide open does show significant smearing of hard edges and highlights, which for me is an acceptable compromise for a lens this wide.

Below 2.8 there is vignette, about 1 stop or so. This is easy to correct in post and isn't huge concern. Barrel distortion is present, but is again minimal for a lens of this length.

Because the lens is fully manual in operation, there are no electronic contacts so no metadata or exif data. I'd also suggest focus peaking as a must when shooting wide open, you'd struggle to get anything sharp without and even with I found myself occasionally focus hunting to ensure I was as sharp as could be.

I think the finest feature of this lens is the handling. It's heavy, smooth and big. The focus ring is chunky and does away with any comfort grip and replaces it with hefty steel notches. I'm finding it hard to compare to anything else, because there's not much else out there to compare it to in terms of build quality. I used to shoot with medium format a lot, and this lens reminds me of the kind of thing you’d find on the old Mamiya’s or Bronicas, just a bit smaller.

Many people will instantly dismiss the Voigtlander because of the lack of auto focus, and that’s a valid concern. Shooting street scenes with manual focus was a real challenge, but it’s one I enjoyed greatly and once you get back into the swing of using manual focus again, the occasional missed shot isn’t too bad.

Below is a video with the lens in action. It was all shot on the GH4 in HD with v-log, edited and graded in premier.

 

It's so refreshing to see a lens of this optical and build quality for the m43 sensor crop. Voigtlander make a further 17.5, 25, and 42.5 mm nokton lenses for the m43 system. I hope to review these in the future.

Disclamier: Voigtlander haven't given me anything to write this up (I wish they would!) All opinions are my own, and you listen to them or follow recommendations at your own peril. The video was all shot on the GH4 on v-log at 100fps in HD. Coloured in Premier with the LUT pack from James Miller. You can purchase them here: http://deluts.businesscatalyst.com/deluts-gh4r-vlog-l.html. No stones were harmed in the making of this video. Many got wet.